Monday, December 27, 2010

the storm

I woke up with a mission. It was still dark outside, but from the lamppost light I could see that two feet of snow had drifted up against the glass doors in the living room. Just a pane of glass between my warm little house and the frozen tundra. I pulled a sweater over my head and walked to the front window, taking in the scene. About 18 inches of new snow had fallen, and was still falling hard. There was a loud wind, really loud. My home sits on the down slope of a small mountain and when the wind blows down you hear it before you feel it. Before I went outside to take on the weather I fired up the wood stove again, and put on a pot of coffee. Then I bundled up to take the dogs out and start shoveling.

I walked out with all my armor on. Carhartt coveralls, waterproof boots, wool socks, rabbit fur hat, ski parka and gloves. I looked up to the sheep sheds and not a sheep was outside their snowless caves. I couldn't blame them. I turned up my ipod and listened to an audiobook while I got to work. I started shoveling the drive, one scoop at a time and within forty-five minutes managed to free the car and move about a 1/4 of the snow off to the sides of fifteen feet of driveway (another 20 to the road, which was of course, piled with four feet of snow from street plows). I was heaving, so I decided to take a break and go inside to warm up. There is no rush, I can't rush. If I do it all at once I will burn myself out, pull my back, or cold get frostbite from a hole in a glove or boot. I have learned to do what I can in many small cuts instead of deep gashes. So, I took off my headphones and blew hot air into my gloves. White vapor came up all around my face in the 10 degree air. I watched it rise up in the blue sky and let myself get lost in the tiny meditation, that is until I heard a loud BBBBBAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH five feet behind me. I turned around and all eight sheep were at the fence gate. They must have marched down through the snow while I was lost in the work. Now I realized I had breakfast to serve, and that meant digging a path to their hay (and to them) before I went inside for my own coffee. My own break was delayed on account of eight rumens.... and fifteen minutes later they were all happily chomping through the blizzard on grass that was alive in Washington County ground in July. The wind picked up and they simply turned their wooly backed to it and kept eating. I suddenly never wanted coffee more in my life than that exact moment.

Inside I peeled off layer after layer and placed them in front of the wood stove to dry off a bit before I took on the rest of the driveway and new paths to the chickens, rabbits, and pig. I wasn't worried about the other animals. I had seen to them late last night when the first flakes started to fall and knew they had enough food and water to make it till noon if necessary. I had stapled more plastic on their windows, made sure all the chickens were in the coop or barn and shut the door tight. I was in no rush to free them either, since I knew the birds wouldn't leave the coop even if the door was wide open in this. Chickens aren't interested in reenacting the last scene of the Shining.

Storms like these stop a normal life. Schools are closed, offices shut down, and single people with day jobs and farms need to call in "snow." I had already spoke to my boss the night before explaining the amount of work that went into digging out the paths, animals, driveway and such. She told me to take off the entire day if I needed it, and I just might. People around here know that sometimes you just can't get into work when weather hits. Sometimes it's a fallen tree in your driveway, or lost power, or in this case: snowed in animals and everyone seems to understand the occasional necessary luxury of not going into the office when roads are closed. It's not even eight o'clock and the farm is just starting to get free of the snow and more is coming today, another 3-6 inches by noon. I'm going to fuel up on coffee and oatmeal and then head back out for round two: operation driveway. Hopefully this time when I stop shoveling for a break the pig won't be behind me wearing a bib and holding a knife and fork...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish I had snow. Down here in PA, it's all talk. Wind. I live on the plateau of the mountain behind me, so the wind comes straight down and from the side. It's pretty harsh on the goats, since they aren't suited to wet and wind.


December 27, 2010 at 8:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The image of the pig with the bib and fork are hilarious!

Happy digging! Our snowshoes are coming in handy this morning to walk across the snow and not having to dig except in front of the doors to get them open.

Be safe!

December 27, 2010 at 8:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Good morning Jenna, I am one of your new followers and could feel your dedication to your animals and know they are blessed to have you taking care of them. Here in NC we got 9 in. which is devastating for this area. This morning the main highways are fine but the parking lots where people work are a solid sheet of ice, so easy to fall and do a lot of damage. 25 degrees and the temps are not supposed to get much higher than 32. Take care as you seem to know how & I'll catch up later.

December 27, 2010 at 8:11 AM  
Blogger daisy g said...

Sending you warm vibes and lots of strength to plow through! Can I put $10 toward a snow blower for you and your "crew"?

December 27, 2010 at 8:17 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

I am not a big fan of the dead of winter, but you make it all seem so doable! We're on our mission to get a family farm, and I always wondered how the animals would do in the cold...looks like they'll be fine, but we'll have to invest into some foul-weather gear :) Thanks for painting such an awesome picture for us!

December 27, 2010 at 9:02 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

"Chickens aren't interested in reenacting the last scene of the Shining."

Thank you for this image! Hope you and yours stay safe and warm today. I don't have that kind of weather to deal with here, but I remember it.

December 27, 2010 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger Earthdrummer said...

May the force be with you girl!!
Coffee up and go feed those babies!!...I'm off to do the same!!

December 27, 2010 at 9:25 AM  
Blogger CJ said...

One word: Snowblower. Worth their weight in gold on a small farm.

December 27, 2010 at 10:36 AM  
Blogger Black Opal Farm said...

Here in the SC mountains, we got hit Christmas morning. We too were busy digging out pigs, llamas, chickens, ducks, and dogs. The cat watched from inside the bedroom window! Good Luck!

December 27, 2010 at 11:01 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

No snowblower here...maybe next year. They cost about 600-1,000 bucks. I'd rather shovel and put that towards a woodstove.

December 27, 2010 at 11:01 AM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

snow day!

have fun.

December 27, 2010 at 11:57 AM  
Blogger sash said...

Oh that was so entertaining and vivid - and I was eating popcorn while I read it.

Best of luck!

December 27, 2010 at 12:17 PM  
Blogger Maggie in Tally said...

Jenna, if memory serves, Lehman's stocks a tool that looks mighty handy--a Whovel, I think. Essentially a shovel mounted on a large wheel. I think there might be a demo video too. Not as costly as a snowblower but better'n a shovel.

December 27, 2010 at 12:42 PM  
Blogger Maggie in Tally said... is the tool's website.

December 27, 2010 at 12:44 PM  
Blogger Laurie said...

We got hit with about 18" of the wonderful white stuff! Not! The roads are awful!
Hope your keeping warm by the fire!

December 27, 2010 at 1:04 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Jenna, if you want a snowblower tell Zach. He can get you one for piddles at an auction!! Oh the bartering we could do (hehehehe)

December 27, 2010 at 5:15 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Here I sit, looking forward to low 30 degree (celcius) temperatures for the rest of this week, and there you are telling us stories about snow storms and shovels. Brilliant to be reading on this warm December afternoon!

Hope you all stay safe, warm and dry.

December 27, 2010 at 11:16 PM  
Blogger beccaWA said...

Reading about your storm, we're awaiting our own here on the Eastern Washington/North Idaho border. Big pink and purple "blobs" on the NOAA website -- that's us! Our weather is similar to your's in New England, I believe. I do like snow, though! Much better than dreary rain. Makes everything look bright & new. ;-)

December 28, 2010 at 11:48 AM  
Blogger CallieK said...

I always find it odd that New York which is south of Ontario always gets way more snow than we do up here in the so called Great White North! I know it's due to Lake Ontario but I've experienced driving from Rochester in horrible blizzard conditions only to drive across the bridge at Queenston/Lewiston to find only a trace of snow on the Canadian side. Glad to hear you're taking it in stride!

December 29, 2010 at 6:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the sort of post that reminds me that, while Himself and I have mild cases of Barnheart, we'll stick to raising veggies in the 'burbs: we are way too old to jump into a life that requires that much physical labor. If we'd started fifteen or twenty years ago, we'd be in shape for it, but now...just doing our short suburban driveway is bad. :-)

December 29, 2010 at 9:47 AM  

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